Is Microsoft OneDrive Worth Buying?

When Microsoft revealed that its Windows 10 operating system was going to be free, you could hear cheering from the audience. At the time, industry watchers wondered how the company planned to substitute income from Windows upgrades going forward. Turns out, their plan rests on the shoulders of lots of different digital add-ons that come pre-installed with Windows 10. The Windows Store is a big focus. Another big focus is Microsoft OneDrive.

In the early days, Microsoft played around with OneDrive’s name and features a bit. Today, OneDrive is a cloud storage service and set of apps that back up your devices. Edit a document and you can send it to OneDrive for syncing with your smartphone, notebook, desktop or tablet. OneDrive acts as a digital storage service too. You can put files on Microsoft’s servers and have them stay there for safe keeping.

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Microsoft is pushing the OneDrive integration in Windows 10 pretty hard. In fact, it’s pushing OneDrive pretty hard on the iPhone and Google’s Android operating system too.

Whether you should seriously consider it as an alternative to DropBox, iCloud and Google Drive depends on what features you’re looking for and which devices you have.

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Microsoft OneDrive Apps & Experiences

OneDrive’s apps for PCs act as the main spokes for the entire OneDrive experience. Available on Mac OS X and Windows, these apps provide background syncing. After you’ve logged in with a Microsoft Account and designated a OneDrive folder, things start syncing between your devices. For example, if you added a picture to the OneDrive folder on your Mac, it’ll surface on online in a few minutes. If something should happen to your Mac, your picture is safe.

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For the most part, OneDrive handles all of this syncing in the background. Users can stuff all of their important files and folders into OneDrive for safe keeping. Note that when you make a change on OneDrive or your PC that change also surfaces everywhere else. OneDrive is built into Windows 10, but the app basically forces users into its website for any settings changes, or additional storage purchases. The Windows 10 app is the least mature of all the OneDrive apps, honestly. Windows 7 users can install the app too.

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Other devices have OneDrive apps of their own. Windows 10 Mobile, iOS and Android each have OneDrive apps that allow users to browse what’s stored on their account, plus upload photos directly to their Camera Roll. Xbox One has a OneDrive app too, but it’s more a showcase than useful tool.

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When you’re away from your PC or device, that’s where the OneDrive website definitely comes in. It offers direct access to your pictures and documents online. You can manage everything there. Drag and drop for moving files is supported.

OneDrive for Android

OneDrive for Android

Microsoft OneDrive Pricing

15GB of storage is free with every Microsoft Account. Users can purchase 50GB of storage for $1.99 a month or sign up for a companion service that gives them even more. Microsoft Office 365 is one such companion service. Subscribers to it get 1TB of OneDrive Storage. Groove Music is another, Groove Music subscribers get 100GB of storage with their monthly $9.99 subscription. Both are a terrific showcase for how Microsoft’s ecosystem fits together. Office 365 uses OneDrive to store and sync all the documents that users create. Groove Music acts as a cloud media player for anything stored in a user’s OneDrive music folder.

How OneDrive Handles in Everyday Use

The whole point of any cloud storage service – anyone worth its price tag and branding, at least – is that you’re able to offload something that you’d normally do.

The place that OneDrive is successful the most is stitching together a camera roll from all of your different devices. After flipping the setting on, OneDrive automatically uploads the pictures you take from Android, iPhone or Windows. You never have to worry about losing a picture because it’s always there. You don’t have to worry about syncing cables either. I do wish the service would add an option to delete a picture once it’s been added to OneDrive.

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OneDrive for Web

Syncing on the mobile apps feels effortless if you’re near Wi-Fi. Outside of Wi-Fi, OneDrive will wait to sync until you’re near a hotspot. You can configure the app to upload in the background and on a mobile network if you like.

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The mobile and web versions of OneDrive are visual affairs, with great options for automatically tagging friends in photos or sharing documents, photos and videos. A single file can be 10GB of OneDrive. Uploading files doesn’t take anything near the amount of time it used to.

Some errors come back again and again.

Some errors come back again and again on Windows 10.

The Windows 10 OneDrive integration is a joke though.

You can’t share anything from it. Sync problems sometimes surface again and again, even after you’ve dealt with them. OneDrive for Windows 8 had place holder files so that you had some idea of what files were in OneDrive, even if they weren’t on your PC. That’s gone now. Microsoft integrated browsing OneDrive into File Explorer for Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows 10. This can force you to rearrange folders and often forget which Documents folder you’ve got something stashed in.

Should You Use Microsoft OneDrive?

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The OneDrive experience on Microsoft’s own flagship desktop operating system is mediocre. That being said, the rest of the experience is top-notch. Syncing works quietly and flawlessly. There’s a huge lack of add-on storage options at the moment, but $1.99 for 50GB of storage seems very reasonable to me.

Even if you have an iPhone or Android device, Microsoft OneDrive is definitely worth looking into. My advice would be to try it out before you pay Microsoft any more for additional storage or an add-on service like Office 365.